Sharon's Summer

Sharon's Summer
Sharon Chooses High Elevation and High Temperature

Monday, June 28, 2010

Third Date

We rode together pleasantly, Mr. Google and me, in the early morning.  His choice in bicycle routes and mine agreed, and since we rode along the coast from San Clemente to San Diego, we faced no reasonable options.  A hilly ride it was, undulating in that lovely weather people wrongly call “June Gloom.” We agreed on everything, as comrades where options are few.  It is where landscapes open and personal preferences become possibilities, and where many roads lead to the same place through different experience, that individuals arise and become ugly conflicts. 

The parking lot in Carlsbad.  The Daily News Café where Mr. Google and I stopped for breakfast

Torrey Pines originated in just these few acres near San Diego.  They moved outward from here by the aid of human imagination to many other places.  The biggest one is in Pasadena on Hill Avenue.  In like manner, I originated in Africa, and by the aid of imagination came to this place—paler, clothed, and thousands of years later, far from where I began and far from where my followers will go. 

At San Diego, we had many choices for the last thirty miles to El Cajon.  At first we both suggested the same familiar roads near UCSD, but then he suggested the meandering path along Mission Bay.  It sounded so refreshing that I willingly followed.

But then it became time for his long anticipated left turn onto Friars Road.  I was horrified to learn that I could not turn there because it is an overpass with no way around.  Of course I fussed and screamed; what did he expect when we’d gone five miles that I’d  have to retrace.  So I left him there and stomped off in a pout.  I climbed down the steep bank with my bike and got to Friars Road despite his stupidity.  But even here in the bushes, all alone again, I made a necessary stop and found an unexpected pleasure.

In the bush
where nature calls
it beckons more 

We met again later in the day, in a place where by coincidence our paths crossed.  I bid him a wave and polite greeting; he said nothing.  The time had come to accept that our relationship might become friendly, but not close. 

I’m at my sister’s house now  and will go home in a car.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Second Date and Not in Love

My infatuation with Mr. Google turned sour today.  He offended my sensibilities and hurt my sense of logic and order.  On our first date he led me along pleasant bicycle paths and residential streets without bad traffic.  But today if I had followed him, I would have missed the entirely beautiful San Gabriel River bicycle path, which goes all the way from where I have always joined it in Rosemead to the ocean.  With him, I would have wallowed in a maze of trafficked streets instead.  Thus ends my crush and the beginning of a cautious relationship where my eyes are not all agush.  Against his wishes I took the well-known bike path along the river as I’ve done all these years of going it on my own.  Can it be that even ability to trust another is waning?

It looks like a super highway, but the scale is deceptive.  This is the bike path above San Dimas Dam, so close to the 605 that I can hear it, so far that that the sound could be a rushing river.  

Where the river reaches the ocean, I turned along the surf and traversed Bolsa Chica Park, across PCH from where poets have been known to witness the habits of birds and where today I witnessed thousands of beach bunnies and volleyball geeks while dodging toddlers on the bike path.  

I travel with a desk and chair wherein I read whatever’s posted there; today it’s some notes on the Google route—a sad poem of lost love and making it on my own. 

A traffic jam at Huntington Beach (two pictures below)

The new pedestrian and bicycle path along the shore at San Clemente.  I stopped here for the night at Budget Host Inn, a good place in spite of its name.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day One to El Cajon

I breathed a bug in the early morning while passing a strawberry field of Oxnard.  I felt it twitching in my throat and spoke harshly and loudly to the intruder.  If it was a vocal bug I’m sure it responded, but I didn’t hear if it did.  I think it must have been terrified in the dark cavity into which it had flown or into which it was sucked, a kind of Jonah in great distress.  I think it got tangled in my shrieking vocal chords; at least that’s how it felt.  I haven’t seen or felt the bug for some time now or I’d ask how it felt to be so close that our vocal chords entangled, and together made new sounds.

But that was the only distress on a mostly pleasant ride from Ventura to South Pasadena.  I’ve taken a certain route all these years of making the trip to my sister’s house. I studied it some fifteen years ago and have it so memorized that I seldom consult a map.  But this time I diverted from habit and followed the new Google recommendations for cyclists.  I entered my two end points and asked for the best bicycle route.  Google took me along bike trails I did not know existed, and mostly along streets that are residential and not crowded with cars.  Where cars abound, then in most cases a bike lane kept me reasonably far from their threat.  My old route was good, but the Google route is better.

Strawberry pickers in Cararillo, on the way up to Simi Valley.  I think it is not possible to start earlier in the morning than farm workers in Santa Clara River Delta.

The organic produce from Underwood Farm in Moorpark is just like that of the Caltech Poetry Garden: every bit as much; every bit as good. Three photos below:

One of the many pleasures in riding a bicycle over great distances is finding a little locally-owned coffee shop after about thirty miles in mid-morning. Southern California is mostly devoid of them, ranking far below the Midwest.  But if you are ever pedaling through Simi Valley on such an occasion, I can highly recommend Jerry’s Coffee Shop on Los Angeles Street just west of the train station on the north side.

After Simi Valley comes the long climb up and over Santa Susana Pass.  I take a twisty road not far from the 118 Freeway.  It’s always a pleasure to see the summit and know that a roller coaster awaits just over the top. 

And here it is folks.  It might as well be Mt. Everest!

While I was pushing long and hard to get over the pass, a train was gliding through a tunnel underneath me, and cars were rushing along the freeway.  But they were not having as much fun. 

Is this a scene from Yosemite Valley, or from Joshua Tree?  No, just part of Rocky Peak near Santa Susana Pass. 

After The Pass, I slid down into The Valley at Chatsworth, and found a bike trail along the river.  It provided a few miles of solace before the maze of streets and congestion that we call home.  It wasn’t bad though, I found more home than congestion.

 I didn’t know about the new busway along Victory Boulevard.  And better than the busway is the bike path beside it.  It’s a safe route, but difficult at the street crossings.The pedestrian and bike signals keep us waiting and sometimes seem not to work at all.  

From Balboa eastward, the bike path is less transected by streets and more pleasant.

I’m a little hoarse today from singing with the bug, but otherwise fine and resting here at home for three days without a car before proceeding south.  I might hold out a sign: “Will write poetry for a lift.”

Saturday, June 19, 2010

On the Bike Again

Many times I’ve made the trip to El Cajon—three days of about fifty miles a day, stopping in Laguna Beach and Carlsbad.  But the rate at Crescent Bay Motel in Laguna Beach, a run-down place, by far the cheapest place in town, has gone up to $120, and something had to change.  So this time I’ll stay in San Clemente at the Budget Lodge for half the price, making the trip in two seventy-five mile days, and take the cost of a bed out of my hide.  A child should be able to do more and go farther as she ages, right?

Summer officially begins for this traveler at the first twinkle of solstice light next Tuesday.  A leg thrown over the bicycle, a few turns of pedal, and old life turns young.  Starting in Ventura, I’ll simply ride home that first day—78 miles to South Pasadena.  Then on to El Cajon after a carless rest. 

My logic in these matters is selective; I pick logic that best serves emotion.  In this case I have the new world of Google maps to amuse me.  If you enter two locations and click on the bicycle icon, an amazing thing happens, entirely new under the sun.  Magic begins, and a reasonably good bicycle route pops forth.  I have tried them and they usually work.  Now I will try them all the way on a long trip.  Wow, if this really works I can go anywhere and not even need all those books, links, contacts and maps.  I can become free and stone-like as a gargoyle.

Imagine looking back, down that is, on wonderment, having knowledge on what used to be mystery.  To overlook or look it over, words and pictures in bits and code, from a godlike gargoyle stance, corroded and looking down on earthlings, while the new ones vie for what I’ve seen and notice not the gargoyle.  They speak ancient words not knowing they are mine.  Years wedge them apart from me, and nobody hears the gargoyle.  It never dies but thrives in stone.  Such sad endings to wonderful mysteries, revel in talk of a new generation, on which I look down and try to tell them how it was.  I’ll taste of this new kind of biking.  I must because it’s there.

After this humble beginning the summer waits as in my last post with dates as follows:
Bike trip 6/22 – 6/29
Sierra Hike 7/16 – 7/26
Death Valley 8/16 – 8/30
Pakistan from late September to late October

This last drop-in element of a summer colláge has mounted and taken shape in the last two weeks.  I have an air ticket and will soon deal with the LA office of the Pakistan Consulate.  I will go there in person and request a Visa as tourist.  It’s an impossible process:  I have to buy a round-trip air ticket before they will issue a Visa, and I cannot go to Pakistan without a Visa.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Extreme Summer

Please join me this summer on a variety of trips.  As before, I plan to go where few have gone, where few find reason to go, where most think it’s crazy to go.  It will be a summer of extremes!  As last winter was extreme with cold, this summer will rise to high elevation and heights in temperature.  You don’t have to buy the philosophy to enjoy the trip.

If I were famous, newspapers would carry headlines:

The Tortoise Cycles South

A colláge of assorted summer fun is starting to well up inside like art does before it happens, I’ll begin by painting a line with my bicycle tire along a third of California’s length, from Ventura to El Cajon.  It’s an easy start to the summer because a bicycle seat has become almost as common as a computer chair.  I have made the trip to my sister many times, and happy visits result.  But this time I will skew the well-known route, because a new thing has arisen under the sun.  Google now maps routes for bicycles.  I have checked a few on two wheels and been happy there; so this trip will provide better science for more distant ones.  More on this in future posts.

Hermit in the Wilderness—Lone backpacker on isolated Sierra trail

When I was young, the woods and canyons above Altadena were where I hid from the monsters of the populated world.  Even now, after learning to stare them down most of the time, I often seek peace in wilderness.  Why I want to go there alone backpacking, and to a part of the mountains where few backpackers go, is an answer that’s difficult to verbalize, but not hard for me understand.  And while it will be asked, for now I won’t even bother.

I will go missing and not post anything from timberline campsites.  But after returning, I am thinking to post each day of the hike on a day at home, to let it unfold slowly from pictures, handwriting, and memory—as did in reality. 

I took this picture from Forester Pass, a bit south of the current planned hike, just after graduating from high school.  Yes, I was alone on that backpacking trip also. 

Life in Death—The Hottest Place in the Hottest Month—Death Valley in August

It seemed appropriate that after wintering in the nation’s coldest place (save Alaska) that I should spend summer in the nation’s hottest.  I have reserved a room in Beatty, Nevada, just outside Death Valley, for August.  I don’t plan to stay inside much, however, but to include lengthy outdoor exploring, as I did in International Falls.  I hope to post every day from there and to hear your feedback.  That cold winter was a good time for me, and may this hot summer be also.

This picture was taken by my uncle Knowlton in 1938 at Death Valley.

Pakistan in October

I want to visit this beautiful country and its loving people.  I feel I know them from their messages of encouragement, as if they are the ones who should be encouraging.  I want to live with them, wear a shalwar kameez, and do as they do for the month of October.  Perhaps I can apply thirty years of making maps and plans to needed projects and make a small difference, leave a small trace. 


This summer colláge stands in hope, like a finished painting hangs in waiting, like some of yours hang on walls.  I call the whole, Sharon’s Summer, mirroring a picture from across the room, Sharon’s Winter.  But the summer will not all be invested in wild schemes; much of it will remain at home as usual, though usual seldom happens.  I usually ask things like, What have I to live for?  What have I to fear?  I have already given away the great majority of my strength.  The quest is over.  Not a sorrow, this, but relaxation.